Art Toronto 2010′s Opening Night Preview

Every year Art Toronto opens with a gala event benefitting the Art Gallery of Ontario. This black-tie and exclusive fundraiser attracts collectors and curators from around North America, as well as a who’s-who of luminaries.

Art Toronto went RED CARPET this year with a fabulous photo wall, complete with paparazzi! Courtesy of artist Mike Hansen was the project Hoi Polloi — it literally means ‘the unwashed masses’ — an interactive exhibit that gives everyone a chance to feel like a celeb. Flashbulbs on stands popped as people strode by, and speakers played a loop of praise and calls for posing.

Real photogs were brought in to complete the atmosphere. Did you have your pic snapped on our red carpet? Check back in a few weeks and I’ll have more information about where you can look online!

It was a really exciting affair with all attendees dressed to the nines (the Art Toronto team included!) and the general consensus seems to be that it was a fantastic party. Highlight of my night? Meeting (now) world famous artist Alex McLeod; the fancy martini being served up was a solid second.

We couldn’t have kicked off Art Toronto 2010 with more style. Check out some of the scenes from last night below.

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Short on words

This morning I’m a little shorter on words than usual. Now, if you had seen me at 12:30 last night wandering around the show floor hanging booth signs you might be given to believe that it’s sleep deprivation that has robbed me of a tongue. But you’d be wrong.

A brisk stroll through the Art Toronto show floor would leave anyone absolutely tongue-tied. It’s a dazzling display of some of the best contemporary art from around the world, and it’s all here.

Feast your eyes.

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Check back daily for more photo updates!

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The art of progress, the progress of art (fairs)

Bang, clang, crash — it’s a raucous time at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the show is still a day and a half away from opening. It’s one of the things I love best about working on huge shows like these. The chaos is exhilarating and the panic (luckily) is often unwarranted.

Early stages of construction

The MTCC is a hangar; it’s a vast, wide open space. If you tried to cartwheel from one end to the other you’d surely wind up in bed for a week.

Things are moving along...

But over the past few days I’ve watched as the hall filled with trucks, forklifts, then walls, lights and soon with hundreds of exhibitors. It’s still a barren, colourless place, the white walls doing little to break up the monotony of the grey cement floor. In a few short hours the MTCC will welcome the first giant waves of exhibitors and the show floor will be absolutely transformed as if by magic!

Lights are on, but nobody's home

I’ll be updating and posting whenever I can so you can see what I see. But please dear readers, forgive me if you find typos, grammatical mistakes, or anything that appears to be evidence of lack of sleep or temporary insanity.

And don’t forget — you can buy tickets online for $16 — that’s $2 off the door price!

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Seeing the future through the past: An interview with Luke Painter

By Zoe

I once lived in a purple house in Montreal with some roommates including the Toronto artist and Professor, Luke Painter. They made sure I went to see Arcade Fire for $7, introduced me to Dim Sum and helped me to understand the beginnings of contemporary painting.

Photo: Rannie Turingan (BlogTO)

Luke has shown drawings and an installation-based works at a number of venues including Angell Gallery in Toronto, Bonneau Samames Art Contemporain in Marseille, France, the Pulse Art Fair in New York and Plus Gallery in Denver.  Luke has exhibited with Angell Gallery since 2002 and has been in Art Toonto four times. In 2008, Luke Painter was included in the Carte Blanche 2, a book of contemporary Canadian Painting.

Luke’s willingness to help everyone around him has made him a bit of a legend.  To those of us who are lucky enough to have known him over the years, we have seen great growth in his work and a variation and maturity in his art practice. He works really hard and makes things happen. 

The Harbour (Malting)

Zoe Pawlak: In recent works we see a merging of new and old, the antiquated and that which has the appearance of being futuristic. How does the convergence of past and future imagery play into your work?

Luke Painter: Over the past few years I have been working on large-scale paintings rendered with India ink and brush on paper that utilize disparate elements within figures and landscapes to create a sense of historical ambiguity. These works are intentionally mimetic of traditional printmaking techniques (woodcut, engraving) and composite methods used in digital media (Photoshop), but the end result is a singular work on paper.  I am interested in combining older forms of ornamentation and patterning with contemporary subject matter and/or modern looking individuals.

ZP: You have lived in both Montreal and Toronto. Having grown up in Toronto and now living there as an adult and an artist, what influences are you taking most from the city itself?

Carte Blanche

LP: I am deeply affected by the city I live in and I often incorporate aspects of my surroundings into my work. In one of my drawings titled, The Harbour (Malting), I have used an old grain silo as a reference for this particular work. This grain silo is located on Queens Quay near Bathurst St in Toronto and is one of two remaining silos originally built in 1928 that was used to store malt. Built from concrete, the stripped-down and unadorned functionalism of the building was a precursor to modernist trends in architecture. It has been unused since the 1980’s and there has been debate about how the site should be utilized, with talk of a museum or theme park. I grew up in this neighborhood, which has been quickly developed into a condo landscape. Canada Malting has now become an interesting anomaly in the midst of accelerated development. My own interest in the building comes from a desire to reformulate the material of the building back to wood, in which they were originally built (they were changed to concrete to avoid burning down). I decided to take the concept one step further by rendering the surrounding area in wood to amplify the once natural surroundings that populated this area around Lake Ontario. I imagine Canada Malting to be an eyesore for many of the new condo residents, but it continues to hold a personal resonance with me as I grew up nearby.

ZP: Toronto has really been gaining international attention for events like Nuit Blanche and Art Toronto.  What have these events meant to Toronto’s working artists like yourself?

LP:   Having just witnessed this years Nuit Blanche I have to say that I really like the event.  For many people I know it is art-lite or art that is for entertainment and not for contemplation.  I personally think it can be both.  Both Art Toronto and Nuit Blanche have been good for raising awareness about the Toronto scene in international circles.

Victorian Bust

ZP: In 2008, you received a Canadian Council Artist Grant. What did you make with this grant and what does it mean to be supported in this way?

LP:   In 2008 I received a Canada Council Artist Grant for a work titled From Victorian to Modernism to What?  This installation shown in May 2010 at 47 Space in Toronto reflected on the compulsion to personally connect with (and often transform) the architecture of our surroundings. Over the past couple of years I worked with my father to build a scale model of a specific Victorian house from a neighbourhood where we both used to live. 
Approximately 8’ tall and heavily ornamented, the structure is too small
to be a real house and too large to be a dollhouse.  On the rear wall
of the building, two eyes made from stained glass project animations
depicting architectural sites specific to Toronto that have personal
resonance with me and that nod to the transitioning nature of
neighbourhoods in the city. It was an important project for me. I started to think about larger works with bigger budgets and I am now starting to apply for some more ambitious projects. 

Woodlot Mansion

LP: I am deeply affected by the city I live in and I often incorporate aspects of my surroundings into my work. In one of my drawings titled, The Harbour (Malting), I have used an old grain silo as a reference for this particular work. This grain silo is located on Queens Quay near Bathurst St in Toronto and is one of two remaining silos originally built in 1928 that was used to store malt. Built from concrete, the stripped-down and unadorned functionalism of the building was a precursor to modernist trends in architecture. It has been unused since the 1980’s and there has been debate about how the site should be utilized, with talk of a museum or theme park. I grew up in this neighborhood, which has been quickly developed into a condo landscape. Canada Malting has now become an interesting anomaly in the midst of accelerated development. My own interest in the building comes from a desire to reformulate the material of the building back to wood, in which they were originally built (they were changed to concrete to avoid burning down). I decided to take the concept one step further by rendering the surrounding area in wood to amplify the once natural surroundings that populated this area around Lake Ontario. I imagine Canada Malting to be an eyesore for many of the new condo residents, but it continues to hold a personal resonance with me as I grew up nearby.

ZP: Toronto has really been gaining international attention for events like Nuit Blanche and Art Toronto.  What have these events meant to Toronto’s working artists like yourself?

LP:   Having just witnessed this years Nuit Blanche I have to say that I really like the event.  For many people I know it is art-lite or art that is for entertainment and not for contemplation.  I personally think it can be both.  Both Art Toronto and Nuit Blanche have been good for raising awareness about the Toronto scene in international circles.

Plume

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Art Toronto 2010

Never too soon to get your stoke on!

Get your tickets NOW!

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How ‘Can’ is different from ‘Do’

Many times, as soon as someone learns I write a blog, and specifically a blog about art, I am bombarded with well-meant but unsolicited opinions. I find that sometimes some of these folks voice their opinion so vociferously because they want to see if it will influence one of my posts. (And so, Mr Tryhard from the party I left early, this one’s for you…)

My favorite is the vitriol I hear from arts-detractors. Though the form and context varies, the point is always the same: “How is that art if I could do it?”

And now, a caveat

I’m not going to start into a diatribe about what art is and what defines art and creation and an artist. What I want to talk about instead is creativity, and how you should concern yourself with detractors in much the same way you do the weather.

One morning my blackberry blinked (as it does every morning, who am I kidding?) with a new article from Copyblogger. On this day it was about creativity and success. It jump-started me on this post because it elucidated how easy it is for absolutely anyone to be creative — a statement that speaks to the multitude of iterations and forms creativity can take.

The Factory

The outside world comes inside then goes back out again, in matters of creativity like anything else. First you perceive something in your world, then you internalize it and imbue it and understand it with your own thoughts and feelings, then you react to it, producing something else that can be similarly digested.

Tethered to creativity is also the concept of individualism. What singularly seems to define creativity is that one person can see something, think something, feel something, and make something that no one else can. And that, I believe, is why it’s so easy for some people to say “Yeah, that’s cool. But I (or my five year old, or a monkey, etc) could have done that!”

(And now to invoke the words of the man himself,) Damien Hirst already rebuffed this with the most poignant answer there is: “But you didn’t, did you?” And that friends, is what this entire argument hinges upon.

You’re special

When we were children, Mom would coo and pat our head and tell us that we’re special — more special than anyone else. It’s her imperative as a parent to make you feel like the most powerful person on the planet. While this is a healthy thing for kids and their self-esteem — feeling like they can grow up to be a doctor or a dancer or a world-explorer means they’ll push their own boundaries without fear — it has an affect on our adult lives. It seems that some of us forget how special everyone else’s contributions to life are.

It is a good thing to believe that you can do anything, that you can meet any challenge, fulfill any dream. We should feel this way. The reality is that, while you can strap on your trainers and run your heart out for 7 or 8kms, you’re not about to win the Boston Marathon. Maybe with work, but not tomorrow.

beam me up

Remember in high school when you sat in the cafeteria all by yourself trying to discretely eat your ham sandwich while wearing your replica Star Trek communicator (what, just me?) and you felt alone and like no one could understand you? Remember the elation you felt when you realized that your school had a Trekkie fan club that met every Tuesday in the A/V room and suddenly you had people to sit with at lunch and talk about how hot Riker is?

That, dear friends, is what it’s like to be part of a community. The idea of community goes beyond the concept of a group; I’m not talking about a motley huddle of people with whom you share an interest or two. I’m talking about a group of people you can depend on for support, appreciation and constructive criticism.

It is absolutely possible to create from within a vacuum; artists, writers, and countless other creatives do it all the time. Oftentimes it’s not the starting that’s challenging, it’s the finishing. A community can mean many things depending on what you need — it can be a source of inspiration, of constructive criticism, it can even be a great distraction if that’s really what you need. Your community won’t look at your work (half-started, half-finished, whatever stage it’s at) and ask you how it’s art. Your community won’t shrug their shoulders at you and wonder aloud why you’re wasting your time blogging/painting/carving landscapes out of old phonebooks when you could be doing something else.

I hinted at how helpful community can be with a post a few weeks ago about Fundrazr — the PayPal product that helps you solicit mini-donations from family, friends, colleagues and fans through Facebook — who better to support your art than the folks who support you already?

Where the party’s at

Your community won’t just appear over night, you must seek it out. Who do you identify with? Go where they are. Ask them for help, or offer your own. Go to art events, join art societies, visit studios — heck, get a twitter account, start a blog! You’ll find those likeminded folks!

I struggled writing this post. It started off feeling forced, contrived even — definitely not how I wanted a post on creativity to feel! Luckily I’m part of a community of writers, people I trust and respect who won’t hurt my feelings when they offer up input like “the whole opening paragraph is flat” and “when you finally got rolling, it ends. And not well.” (SC – thank you, love you, owe you)

My community reads my blog; they comment on it or they send me little notes. They realize that there are a million blogs out there (they’d know, they’re writing them too!) and that it’s not the product that’s unique per se, it’s the process, the effort, the perspective, and the balance of a myriad other variables.

Anybody can play the piano, but there’s only one Mozart; anybody can pick up a paint brush but there’s only one Basquiat.

Anybody can make art.

What makes art special is that anybody doesn’t do it.

You do it. And you do it well.

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Smoking in the ladies room

There are few things that turn my crank more than strong, innovative artists and powerful, adventurous women. Together the two elements pack a heck of a wallop. This weeks wallop: the second in a series of artist profiles by dynamo artist-entrepreneur extraordinaire Zoe Pawlak, this time the focus on an artist both local to Vancouver and in attendance at Art Toronto 2010, Fiona Ackerman.

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By Zoe

I have the great pleasure of sharing my studio with one of the hardest working ladies in Vancouver. Fiona Ackerman’s got a sense of great humor, likes good beer and knows what she’s talking about when it comes to painting. She is the perfect studio mate and is quickly becoming my fastest-made friend.

Fiona Ackerman is a rising star in the Vancouver art scene. Her two paintings in The Cheaper Show were bought up by the first two people in line and this fall she is enjoying the success of a second show at the Diane Farris Gallery with painters Will Murray and Nick Lepard. Parts Gallery is currently showing her work in Toronto and taking her to Art Toronto for the first time.

Zoe Pawlak: You said that showing at Art Toronto was like a 5 year goal for you and now it is happening for the first time this year. You are making the trek out from Vancouver to attend. With a job, a toddler and an active studio practice here at home in Vancouver, why is it of such importance to be in Toronto for the show?

Fiona Ackerman: I miss a lot of events and opportunities to chat with people because I’m juggling such a chaotic life at the moment. This will be my first chance to really just soak it in in some time, and I’ve been wanting to go for a few years. Having Parts Gallery bring some of my work to Art Toronto gave me just the excuse I needed to book a ticket. In a country as large as Canada, new painting tends to get considered in a very regional context. I am curious to see work brought from all over Canada show under one roof, in an international context.

ZP: There is a huge rise in women working outside of the home, but we often hear that real support for working women falls short. Being a mom and wanting to be in the studio full time, what challenges do you face?

FA: Actually, I’m not sure the challenges are special to being a mom. I think any parent trying to build a career with a young family at home will be challenged by a lack of time, and likely a lack of money. My particular challenge is part of what I do, or rather what I am – a painter. To say I work outside of the home would be unfair to my family. My work follows me everywhere, it follows me home. Yes, I have to share my time, I would love to be in the studio ‘full time’. That day will come. But my love ones will have to share me with painting forever.

ZP: Your abstract work is often void of direct narrative about your personal life. Was the figurative painting “Distraction” (which won Honorable Mention for the Kingston Portrait Competition) a bit about your longing for painting and it’s conflict with family life?

FA: Distraction is about sharing my love and attention. It is about the challenge of wanting a family, and being very driven as an artists. One is always a distraction from the other. At first I thought I was painting a portrait of a father and son. But as I looked at them sitting there, staring back at me from their assigned places on the sofa, I realized I couldn’t possibly paint a portrait of their relationship. They were sitting for me, and where I should have been seeing my family, I was seeing them in paint.

ZP: Your father, artist Gregor Hiltner, has enjoyed a successful, but somewhat unconventional career. How do his career choices influence your decision-making process as to where to show and how to work?

FA: I have learned so much from my father, and continue to. He always points out the joy and pleasure in the struggle to be an artist. Of course we all have big egos and want a successful career, but deep down it is truly about the quality of the work for him. I was very proud to show with him in Germany a few years ago, and I really hope that opportunity comes again soon. His advice is to proceed in your career with integrity, and paint with determination.

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